Saturday, August 3, 2019

Advice For Writers Who Are Also Caregivers

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

This summer has really been a strange time for me. I don’t know if it’s the summer doldrums or trying to shoehorn too much into a day or new distractions, but I’ve spent very little time at the laptop. Very little.

It’s worrying my wife. She’s learned that if I go without writing for too long, I tend to get a bit cranky. Maybe a smidge. Like Godzilla taking over Tokyo.

Now, I want to explain my situation. My wife and I have decided that I would be our autistic son’s primary caregiver while she’s at work. I like to say that I’m his butler because most of what I do is get the things he tells me he wants.

And it will look good in my bio.

Care giving means different things in different situation. Some people need more medical care, others only need a companion to watch over them. says that there are forty-four million Americans providing care each year. From meeting people at our conferences and writers’ groups, I know that includes many of our readers.

Being his caregiver works well with my writing. I write for some blogs, a devotion now and again, and I’m working on some novels that I just know the world is anxiously waiting to read. I don’t have any real deadlines, just the sound of the pages of the calendar persistently turning.

And this summer I’ve been okay with spending time away from the screen, which really surprises me. But, I know that the rest is just for a season, a very short season.

This summer, we’ve have been blessed with having more help with the care giving of our son than normal. His buddy is a school teacher. When school goes back, we’ll see him a lot less. Which is why I’m not going to beat myself up over taking a little time away from writing.

We are told that writers write. To be a writer, you have to write. And, they say, it should be every day. In wind or rain. (Don’t they know we write inside?) Every day.

But that isn’t always the case for everyone. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and regroup. Recharge your mental batteries. Especially if much of your energy is being used at another job or caring for someone.

I’m finding that taking some time off this summer seems to be helpful for me in a few ways:

1. It’s allowed me to develop some new interests.
One of the things I’ve done with my extra time is to join a senior bowling league, after not bowling for over thirty years. Let’s just say my mind and my body haven’t yet gotten into sync. I’m enjoying meeting new people, but it’s humbling being out-bowled by a eighty-six-year-old lady.

A little humility every once in a while isn’t a bad thing.

And being exposed to new situations may come in handy in my stories.

2. It’s allowed me to spend time with old friends.
One of the biggest problems for both a caregiver and a writer is becoming isolated. The white page or the needs of another sometimes make it impossible to go out. After a few days, or weeks it becomes easier just staying home.

However, we are all wired to one extent or another for social connections. Not just as a vent for our own frustrations but to help someone else with theirs. Laughter is the best medicine is more than just a catchy saying but good advice.

Even if your circumstances don’t let you get out, that doesn’t mean you have to be alone. 
Call a friend, text someone, get on a positive Facebook page, or an online chat group.

We are not meant to go through this alone. Get out, in person or online, and meet someone. It will help both of you.

3. It’s allowed me to spend time outside.
Summer days seem to be a great time to find reasons to get out. Many cities and towns have festivals, parks, or free music. Even if it’s just for a few hours, get outside. Get some sunshine.

I’ve taken up fishing. Sitting outside watching a red-and-white float, in the sun, while I’m swatting bugs. It’s hard to beat.

4. It’s allowed me time to meet new people.
It’s easy to let our lives get into ruts. Wednesday night, then it must be meatloaf. But it is good to shake it up sometimes. Meeting new people does this. (By new people I don’t mean infants, although . . .)

Making new connections stretches us, teaching us new things about ourselves as well as showing us different things about others. Both good things for writers.

And you never know why God set up that appointment for you.

So, sometimes, give yourself permission to step away from the keyboard. Put down the pen. Get out of the office. God has made a wonderful world out therefor us. Populated by His characters.

Allow yourself some time to go out there and enjoy His world.


Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at


  1. Excellent Tim. Being a caregiver myself, I completely get this.

  2. Have long-admired your willingness to care for your loved one Mr. Tim. It's not an easy task at all, but one that is oh so rewarding. As for writers writing? I like to think my best writing task is to experience life. In doing that, I find the fuel for my writing. God's blessings sir; and thank you for this great post.

  3. Thank you for a great post, Tim. The constant interruptions of caregiving forced me to find creative ways to find a ‘writing hour.’ Being more organized and disciplined isn’t a bad thing! :-) God helps us.

    1. Yes. It’s a constant attempt of finding new ways.